This report is the third in a series of updates on the progress being achieved by Canadian municipalities through FCM’s Municipal Asset Management Program (MAMP). Each web-based report focuses on one of the five competencies from the Asset Management Readiness Scale. The reports incorporate real examples of what communities are doing to improve their decision-making on infrastructure as well as information on tools communities can use to better manage their assets.
FCM’s Municipal Asset Management Program (MAMP) helps municipalities improve their infrastructure planning, including tracking, maintaining, and replacing their municipal assets, like roads, drinking water and wastewater systems. As local governments better understand and plan for the infrastructure they own, they are better equipped to make long-term decisions for their community.
In this web-based report you’ll discover what Canadian municipalities are doing to enhance their infrastructure planning and decision-making through improving their existing business operations.
How to plan for better infrastructure decisions?
The best way to improve your municipality’s infrastructure decision-making is to develop and implement an asset management plan that integrates with your existing financial management and investment decision-making processes.
Through an asset management plan, you assess what assets your municipality owns to determine the services that they provide and their forecasted financial needs. This information allows your council and staff to evaluate your infrastructure investment priorities, to set operational and capital budgets based on criteria that respond to both immediate and long-term needs.
Communities with a long-term financial plan that is connected to their asset management plan empower their council to make decisions based on the knowledge of scheduled costs and impacts to financials in the present and future.
Making data-driven decisions in Quispamsis
There is real momentum behind the Comprehensive Asset Management Plan developed by the Town of Quispamsis in 2019; it is evolving along with this New Brunswick community (population ~18,000).
The plan is a consolidated inventory of municipal assets, detailing lifecycle investment requirements and replacement and rehabilitation costs. Asset condition is estimated using a five-point rating scale. A risk management plan, with mitigation measures to assess levels of acceptable risk and levels of service, is included.
The plan guides short- and long-term planning, financial forecasting and budget discussions. In fact, a Council debate on moving budget from a recreation asset to a street asset led to discussion on respecting asset categories and staying committed to their funding model. An open pre-budget Council session was held to explain how asset management principles helped set budget direction.
The long-term capital plan is informed by capital replacement forecasts, and annual capital and operating budgets are based on a mix of historical values, projected costs and identified priorities.
A cross-organizational Steering Committee and an information management coordinator, who consolidates and standardizes asset records, contribute to a consistent approach to decision-making. Interdepartmental cooperation has improved as staff work together to identify inventory overlaps and apply the rating scale.
Quispamsis’ success stems from ensuring early buy-in from senior staff and Council, having knowledgeable project leads, and researching best practices.
How an asset management plan benefits your community
Sound asset management plans are based on consistent, informed analysis of the data that your community has about its assets. Projects funded by MAMP show a direct correlation between the competencies of data and information, and of planning and decision-making.
A good asset management plan helps you operationalize actual asset information. This means decisions to repair or replace are based on known and documented factors, such as a condition inspection report, the asset’s maintenance history, and the date of installation.
A good plan also establishes levels of service – the quality and consistency of each asset type provided to the community. The plan should consider risks of an interruption in services, and address both short- and long-term investment needs to maintain assets in high-performing condition. Finally, a good plan should be updated on an ongoing basis, as part of a municipality’s regular business.
Through evaluating your asset inventory and condition information, agreeing on your community’s needs, and setting priorities for what to do and when, you lay the foundation for a successful asset management plan.
In this way, an asset management plan ensures your municipality:
Makes informed, evidence-based and defensible financial decisions about its assets
Identifies infrastructure and service level choices and costs for the short and long-term
Recognizes where it can optimize capital budgets through maintenance
Has a clear vision and approach for its infrastructure even when there is staff turnover
Limits and understands its risks for critical infrastructure
What are Canadian municipalities doing to improve their infrastructure and financial planning?
Since 2017, 227 of MAMP’s municipal grant recipients worked on a long-term financial plan for their assets’ complete life cycle. The needs come from estimating what needs to be done and when. Sources of funding are identified to ensure that these repair and replacement costs are covered, through time.
Asset management plans
*Some municipalities complete more than one plan, opting to develop a separate plan for each asset class as a way to get started.
Council approvals of asset management plans
**Some municipalities choose to have their asset management plans approved by council; while others choose to ask council to receive or endorse their reports.
Rosemère’s asset management plan brings staff and council together on key decisions
Rosemère, Québec (population ~14,000) continues to reap the rewards of its asset management plan that was developed, with a MAMP grant, in 2019. Their plan documents the lifecycles and conditions of municipal buildings and systems, and identifies current and future needs, complete with cost estimates for maintenance and replacement. Progress is monitored through performance measures and the plan is updated accordingly.
Rosemère is seeing better communication among departments and the emergence of a stronger internal culture of knowledge sharing. Staff roles and responsibilities for asset management are defined, and a permanent interdisciplinary group guides decision making.
Council and staff have developed a robust understanding of the connection between asset management and budget planning and how these can work in tandem to avoid unnecessary or poorly planned expenditures. Knowing its asset investment decisions are based on real-time data and a structured approach to budgeting gives Rosemère more confidence in its ability to identify short- and long-term priorities. The data also helps inform updates to the three-year capital program and long-term financial plan.
For success, Rosemère stresses the need to involve stakeholders early, and to have a comprehensive planning document.
Which municipalities benefit the most from working on their planning and development?
Based on our data, while most municipalities benefit from asset investment planning, municipalities of less than 5,000 population (72%) and those with fewer than 5 municipal employees (53%) benefit most positively. Working on a financial plan and asset management plan yields quick returns for smaller communities. This is demonstrated through movement by at least one level on our FCM’s Asset Management Readiness Scale.
Measures of success
Below are graphs demonstrating where communities who made progress in this competency rated their planning and decision-making activities on the asset management readiness scale before and after participating in MAMP activities.
Of the 206* of municipalities that improved on the scale:
*total 99% because of rounding
Of the 157 municipalities that improved on the scale:
Tools and case studies
Looking for help in developing an asset management plan? Check out the resources below.
Dunnottar’s asset management plan is creating a sustainable future
By developing an asset management plan and a 10-year capital budget, the Village of Dunnottar is better able to manage its assets and plan for future needs.